This is the twentieth part of a fiction serial, in 870 words.
By the time Leah was three months old, I felt better physically, although I continued to experience mood swings that often involved crying when I was alone. Sitting on the bed while Leah was asleep, or relaxing in the bath when Olly was watching her in the evening. The tears would come for no apparent reason, leaving my face red and blotchy enough to usually have to explain to Olly that I didn’t know why I was crying.
As for Leah, she stayed much the same. I instinctively knew that wasn’t a good thing, and I had my mum to remind me too.
“She doesn’t pay much attention to anything, does she?”
“Shouldn’t she be holding her head up on her own by now?”
“I know she doesn’t cry much, but have you heard her laugh yet?”
There was nothing mum said that hadn’t already crossed my mind. Not least the fact that my baby didn’t seem to ever look at me, unless I physically turned her face in my direction. She had almost no interest in toys, silly noises I made, stupid faces I pulled, or songs I sang to her. If I playfully pushed a fluffy toy against her face, she made no attempt to push it away. I didn’t like the feeling I had, and told Olly I was going back to see the GP.
The doctor I saw that time was an elderly lady. Like many of my neighbours, she was originally from Poland. She listened sypathetically, gave Leah a good examination, then told me she would write to the County Children’s Hospital, and ask them to arrange an appointment for me. As I was leaving, I must have looked as worried as I felt. She put her hand on my shoulder and smiled. “Early days yet, my dear. She will probably be fine”.
Olly had a lot on at work, with the imminent publication of the supposedly eagerly-anticipated autobigraphy of a famous actress. He had looked at me wide-eyed when I confessed I had never heard of her. I didn’t want to add to his concerns by saying too much about the visit to the GP, so I just told him she had referred us to the hospital for checks. Whether he didn’t want to think too much about it, or he was just overwhelmed with work, he didn’t ask me anything else.
That Sunday morning, something else happened. Olly cuddled up to me, and I realised he was expecting sex. In all fairness, he had been incredibly patient, and did as much as he could to help me when he wasn’t at work. I shocked myself by suddenly being aware that I hadn’t even missed sex, let alone thought about it. I had to stop him though. I reminded him that I had never been on the pill, and that if he wanted to continue, he would need to buy some condoms. There was no way in the world I was going to risk getting pregnant again so soon, even though it was a longshot.
The thought of driving to find a shop open that sold condoms then coming back to take up where he left off proved to be a passion-killer that morning. He said he would get some in the city next week.
Leah was four months old when the appointment letter arrived. She still didn’t hold her head up, or giggle and laugh, or move herself around when I put her down on the play-mat. I was due to see some kind of specialist, in eight days time. I spoke to Olly about it, and his reaction upset me, to be honest. “Will you be alright to drive there, Ang? I can’t keep asking for time off with all that’s going on at work just now”. I wanted to ask why he didn’t care enough about his daughter’s development to come to the appointment. I wanted to get damn angry, and have it out with him.
But I didn’t.
One thing I had to admit, the new jumbo-sized car made life easier. The comfortable seat, high driving position, and not having to change gear made it a breeze to drive. I did the fifteen mile drive to the Children’s Hospital in just twenty minutes. It was so much easier driving in the direction away from the city, than into it.
The doctor was a woman with a strong South African accent that made me have to concentrate on what she was saying. As well as a full examination of Leah, she also watched her on the floor, and her interaction with toys, as well as with me. But there were no obvious medical tests. No blood test, no monitors, no scans or x-rays. After what felt like a long time in the big room, she pressed her hands together and started to tell me her conclusions.
Despite being embarrassed at having to ask her to repeat some words because of her accent, I got the gist of what she was telling me, and when she got to the end of her little speech, I certainly understood what she said then. Accent or not.
“Of course, Angela, we kinnot rool ett Brine Dimige”.